A Memory of Fire (The Dragon War, Book 3)

A MEMORY OF FIRE

THE DRAGON WAR, BOOK THREE

by

Daniel Arenson

Copyright © 2013 by Daniel Arenson

All rights reserved.

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either
the product of the author's imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an electronic
or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information
storage and retrieval system, without the express written permission of the
author.

 

FOREWORD

A Memory of Fire
is the third volume of
The Dragon War
, a fantasy series about an ancient kingdom whose people can turn into dragons.

This novel assumes you've already read the first two
Dragon War
novels,
A Legacy of Light
and
A Birthright of Blood
. If you haven't, you'll probably still get the gist of things here, though I do recommend reading
Legacy
and
Birthright
first.

With this introduction out of the way, I welcome you back into a world of blood, steel, and dragonfire.

 
 
KAELYN

Kaelyn was scouting the islet
when fire blazed, rocks flew, and she met the crazy old man who
changed her life.

Many islands dotted this sea,
rising in a ridge like the spine of some sunken, ancient sea god.
This islet rose leagues away from the others, barely larger than a
rock. When Kaelyn first saw it from above, she was going to keep
flying. Valien had sent her to find new bases for their Resistance,
and this place looked too small to even host a single fighter. A
carob tree crested its peak, and two palm trees swayed across its
shore. The cay seemed no larger than Kaelyn's old bedroom back at
the capital.

A green dragon on the wind,
Kaelyn was gliding directly above the islet, heading farther south,
when the explosion rocked the sea.

The sound roared in her ears,
loud as cannon fire. The shock wave tossed her into a spin and
cracked two scales. Before she could right herself, a cloud of dust
burst from below, enveloping her. Rocks pummeled her stomach and she
yelped. The skin on her belly was thick, but those rocks jabbed her
like arrows.

A
volcano?
she wondered.
No. The smell of gunpowder flared here. After fighting the Regime
for three years, Kaelyn would recognize that smell anywhere.

Blinded, she beat her wings
mightily, churning the dust and ash. She rose higher, grimacing.
Fire blazed below and smoke twisted around her like demons. She
flew, not even knowing what direction she headed, until she emerged
back into blue sky.

"What in the Abyss?"
she said, coughing, and looked behind her.

Dust still plumed from the
islet, trailing north with the wind like a rising serpent. Kaelyn
hovered in place, whipping her head from side to side. Was somebody
attacking her? Did imperial ships sail here armed with cannons? Had
her father found her?

That was when she heard laughter
and saw the old loon.

He burst out from the smoke
below, racing across the islet. He wore only a loincloth, and his
long, white hair hung wild about his sooty face. He ran down the
islet's slope, laughing, and danced a jig.

"Fire!" He jumped and
snapped his ankles together. "Explosion!
Boom!
"

Kaelyn squinted, hovering above.
The man seemed unharmed, if blackened with soot. This was no enemy.
This was... who was he? Kaelyn dived a hundred yards lower, heading
down to the islet.

When the old man saw her, he
waved enthusiastically, his whole body swaying with the gesture, and
grinned.

"Hello, pretty green bird!"
he said. "Caw!
Caw!
Are you a bird or a dragon? Bantis kills dragons. Bantis booms
them away. Go, dragon, go!"

Kaelyn kept diving. She circled
above the islet, taking a closer look. The man was still dancing,
waving his arms, and cackling. His left arm ended at the elbow, she
noticed. He wore a prosthetic topped with a blade.

Kaelyn gasped.

"An exiled axehand?"
she whispered. She squinted, bringing him into clearer focus.

No, she decided. The Axehand
Order, a fanatical priesthood whose warriors wore axes upon their
stumps, had been founded fifteen years ago. The elder below, even
back then, would have been too old to join.

She filled her wings with air,
descended, and landed upon the shore. The old man cawed before her,
waving his arms and kicking sand as if trying to scare her off.
Kaelyn released her magic, returning to human form.

"Caw!" the old man
said, standing on one scrawny leg and flapping his arms like wings.
"Go, dragon! Leave. No dragons allowed on Genesis Isle."

Kaelyn stared at him, head
tilted. The air still smelled of gunpowder and smoke, though the
dust was settling, revealing a hole upon the islet's hillside. When
Kaelyn looked back at the old man, she saw that he wasn't wearing an
axe upon his stump after all—it was a hammer. Several other
prosthetic arms hung from his belt; one ended with a shovel, another
with a knife, and a third with a hook.

"Are you hurt?" Kaelyn
asked him.

The man stopped jumping and
waving his arms. He hunched forward, tilted his head too, and
squinted at her. He was rail-thin; Kaelyn could see his ribs pushing
against his sooty skin.

"Is Bantis hurt?" he
asked, voice high and quavering like a taut lute string. "No.
Well, yes. Some hurts run deep. Some hurts are... inside. My
heart." He slammed his prosthetic hammer-hand against his
chest, then yelped. "Hurts! Heart hurts! Wait. No. That's
just my hammer. Wrong hand."

He danced another jig, pulled
off his hammer prosthetic, and tossed it aside. He grabbed a
different prosthetic from his belt—this one shaped as a shovel—and
attached it to his stump.

"Better," he said and
grinned. "See? Right hand. Bantis is a digger. Bantis digs!
Bantis digs for a big, big weapon. Kills dragons! Come, come,
Bantis show you."

With that, he spun around,
darted across the sand, and began to climb the island's hillside.

Kaelyn followed, waving aside
the last plumes of dust. Despite his scrawny frame and advanced
years, Bantis scuttled up the hill like a spider, scampering over
boulders and bushes. Even Kaelyn, slim and young and light on her
feet, struggled to keep up. Soot darkened her long yellow hair, and
her bow and quiver swung across her back.

As she climbed and the dust
cleared, she saw many strange items strewn across the hillside. Some
she recognized: barrels of gunpowder, a cannon, and tinderboxes.
Other items were foreign to her: iron spheres that looked like
cannonballs but were topped with fuses; shafts of wood topped with
metal pipes, possibly miniature cannons; and larger pipes—these ones
made of leather and wood—with glass circles filling each end.

"Did you invent these
things?" Kaelyn said, treading carefully between them, unsure if
they'd explode under her feet.

The old man hopped ahead.
"Invent them? Yes, yes. Bantis is the inventor. Bantis deals
with booms. But now Bantis digs for greatest weapon. Here, come!"
He leaped onto a boulder, turned toward her, and gestured her
onward. "Come, see it, see it!"

She followed, climbing over the
boulder, and beheld a cave upon the hillside. Smoke still rose from
it, and the smell of gunpowder invaded her nostrils.

"Bantis made this hole,"
the elder said, nodded, and scuttled down into the darkness. "Bantis
boomed it. Bantis digs! Come, see. Biggest weapon buried below.
Kills dragons."

With that, he disappeared into
the cavern. Kaelyn climbed the last few feet, coughed, and peered
into the shadows.

"Be careful!" she
cried down to him. "It's not safe."

His head peeked out from the
pit. He grinned, revealing only three teeth. "Safe? No. No,
it's not safe here. It's not safe anywhere from the cruel dragons.
But Bantis will kill them. Yes. Yes, Bantis will dig. Dig!"

He raised his shovel-hand and
spun back into the cavern.

With a sigh, Kaelyn followed
into the darkness.

"Who are you?" she
called after him. "Where are you from?"

She had never heard such an
accent before. Could this man be... a foreigner? Not Vir Requis
like her, but a survivor of the great wars?

Kaelyn sucked in her breath.

He
has to be,
she
thought.

She had been only a child when
Emperor Frey Cadigus, her cruel father, had begun his conquests of
"purification". His Legions had swept across the known
world in those years, burning all foreign lands. The griffins, the
true dragons of the west, the wyverns, and all other flying beasts
fell. They burned in dragonfire, her father's vengeance for ancient
wars a thousand years gone-by.

And
he burned men too,
Kaelyn remembered. Two great kingdoms of men had bordered Requiem in
those years: Osanna in the east, an ancient land of forests and
plains, and Tiranor in the south, a desert realm. No magic had
blessed their people. They could not become dragons like the Vir
Requis, but rode horses, built great cities, and lived in peace with
Requiem.

Until
my father burned them all,
Kaelyn thought.
Until
he deemed them impure, slaughtered them, and annexed the wastelands.

Could this frail old man be a
human survivor—a true human with no dragon form?

"Bantis, where are you
from?" she said in the darkness.

When she crawled deeper into the
cavern, she found him at the bottom. He was staring at a wall of
earth and stone, scratching his head.

"Have to dig
deeper
,"
he said. "Deeper! Buried here, it is. Bantis feels it. Big
weapon."

He knelt and began digging with
his prosthetic shovel, tossing dirt and rocks over his shoulder.
Kaelyn coughed and spat out dirt.

"Stop that!" she said.
"Talk to me. Do you need help?" Her voice softened.
"How long have you been here?"

He looked over his shoulder and
flashed his snaggletoothed grin.

"They sent me here. They
banished Bantis! Poor poor Bantis. The others want to fight. They
don't think Bantis can help." He snorted, spitting out dirt.
"All because Bantis blew up their camp. And their ship."
He tapped his cheek. "And the palm grove. And maybe their last
sheep." He raised his shovel in indignation. "Sheep,
palm, ships, camp... Who cares? Bantis deals with explosives.
Bantis deals with weapons! Bantis will find big weapon here on
Genesis Isle. Big weapon to fight the dragons."

Kaelyn's breath left her.

"The others," she
whispered. "Are there others like you? Others who live on
these islands?"

He was digging again.

"You talk too much."
He frowned over his shoulder at her. "Bantis busy digging.
Bantis dig for weapon to kill you. You burned us. You burned our
lands. You will die! Let Bantis dig so he can kill you."

"I'm not your enemy,"
Kaelyn said. "Are you... from the south? From across the sea?
Do you fight Frey Ca—"

Bantis screamed.

His face twisted. He fell and
cowered and covered his head with his arms.

"Do not say his name!"
the old man wailed. He shivered. "Do not say the name of the
demon! He will fly here. He will burn us. He burned my brothers,
he is a demon, he must die, I am scared. Please, please, don't burn
me, dragons. Don't burn..."

Kaelyn gasped and knelt by the
man. She touched his shoulder, but he only cowered farther into the
corner.

"We fight a common enemy,"
she said. "Don't be afraid. I too seek to kill the tyrant."

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